UCAT PREPARATION

UCAT Situational Judgement Test

WRITTEN BY
Medistudents Team
Apr 16, 2021

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Why use the Medistudents adaptive UCAT question bank?

Did you know that if you spend an average of 2 minutes answering and absorbing the explanation of each question in a question bank, it will take you 333 hours to get through 10k questions!?

No wonder the vast majority of people don’t answer anywhere near 10k questions before their exam!

We surveyed 100s of medical students and asked them what their biggest issue was when preparing for the UCAT.

Over 90% said that because the UCAT wasn’t a knowledge-based exam, they could answer thousands of questions but never feel like they were getting anywhere.

The trouble with standard question banks is that everyone is given the same questions to prepare with, with no consideration of what skills or topics each person is actually struggling with.

However, everyone has a different baseline ability. You might struggle with quantitative reasoning, whereas your friend might be a maths wizard. With a standard question bank, you’ll both answer the same QR questions, in the same order, meaning you’ll be left struggling while your friend doesn’t feel stretched.

No wonder so many people can find preparing for the UCAT frustrating!

The Medistudents adaptive UCAT question bank is here to change all that.

We recognise that the vast majority of students don’t complete all 10,000 questions in a question bank.

It’s therefore vitally important that the questions you do answer are relevant to your skill and ability level.

We’ll ensure that in the areas you’re struggling, you’ll master the basics first. Whereas in your stronger areas, you’ll be immediately pushed.

This will mean that every minute of your revision is turbo charged to maximise your UCAT score.

More than a just question bank that tells you the correct answers

As you progress through the question bank, you’ll be able to see a sophisticated estimate of your current skill level for each subsection of the UCAT. When other question banks give you a performance review, they are simply telling you how many questions you’ve got right or wrong. 

We do things differently.

Our algorithm will tell you exactly what your ability level is for each area of the UCAT. We calculate this based on the actual difficulty of the questions you are answering and it’s done in real time, so you can be sure that the work you’re putting in is actually translating into real gains in your UCAT score.

The Medistudents UCAT question bank is the only one available which shows you if you’re actually getting better at answering harder questions.

The final section of the UCAT, the Situational Judgement Test, assesses how you respond to real world scenarios. It’s different from the other subtests in the exam, which are grouped together as the ‘cognitive subtests’. These differences primarily lie in how it is scored and how your score is used by medical schools in their selection process; both of which you can find more information about in the UCAT Situational Judgement Test Scores section below. 

This guide will provide you with information about the UCAT Situational Judgement Test, the structure and types of questions you will be asked, as well as tips to do well and where you access free UCAT practice questions.

What is the UCAT Situational Judgement Test?

Within the UCAT Situational Judgement Test, you’ll be given scenarios and possible actions or considerations linked to these, which you’ll need to judge in terms of their importance or appropriateness.

Why is there a UCAT Situational Judgement Test? What does it test?

The UCAT Situational Judgement Test assesses your ability to understand situations, identify key factors and respond appropriately. Although some of the scenarios will be clinical based, the UCAT website states that you do not need ‘medical or procedural knowledge’; rather, it is your values and behaviours that will be assessed, through your responses to difficult situations and ethical scenarios.

The UCAT website identifies the following key values and behaviours that will be assessed as part of the Situational Judgement Test:

  • Integrity
  • Perspective taking
  • Team involvement
  • Resilience
  • Adaptability

It’s important that doctors respond appropriately in situations, to maintain professionalism and uphold trust in the profession; therefore, the values and behaviours assessed in the UCAT Situational Judgement Test are important for prospective doctors.

What is the structure / format of the UCAT Situational Judgement Test?

The format of the UCAT Situational Judgement Test is as follows:

  • 22 scenarios
  • Up to 6 questions for each scenario
  • 69 multiple choice questions in total

How much time do you get for the UCAT Situational Judgement Test?

You’ll have 26 minutes (plus a 1 minute instruction section) to read 22 scenarios and answer the 69 associated questions.

Not unusual with the UCAT, time is a factor in the Situational Judgement Test; however, the scenarios will be relevantly short to read – in comparison to the passages in the Verbal Reasoning section, for example – so you should find with adequate preparation and the use of practice tests, you can get through all of the questions in the given time.

What types of questions are included in the UCAT Situational Judgement Test?

Within the UCAT Situational Judgement Test there are the following two question types:

  • ‘How appropriate’ or ‘how important’ questions

    For these types of questions, you need to rate the importance or appropriateness of the given responses in relation to the scenario.

    There are four possible ranking options to choose from in these types of questions:

    • ‘How appropriate’ questions:
      • A very appropriate thing to do
      • Appropriate, but not ideal
      • Inappropriate, but not awful
      • A very inappropriate thing to do
  • Most / least appropriate questions

    In relation to the scenario, you’ll be given three possible responses and asked to choose the most and least appropriate action.

    Remember, it’s asking you to rank the actions, so they may all be appropriate, but it’s about identifying which would be the top priority or best response and the lowest priority or worst response in the situation given.

UCAT Situational Judgement Test Scores

As mentioned previously, the scoring for the Situational Judgement Test differs from the other UCAT subtest, and isn’t included in your total score, with the ‘cognitive subtests. Instead, raw scores are expressed as four bands, with band 1 being the highest and band 4 the lowest score.

Within the UCAT Situational Judgement Test, you’ll score partial marks for ‘almost right’ answers and full marks, of course, for the correct answer; giving you the opportunity to gain some marks even if you don’t get the correct answer. For example, for ‘how important’ questions, if you choose ‘very important’ for an answer where the correct choice was ‘important’, you would be awarded partial marks.

The cognitive subtests – Abstract Reasoning, Decision Making, Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning – are scored differently, using scaled scoring.

How do candidates perform in the UCAT Situational Judgement Test?

Just as the Situational Judgement Test differs from the other UCAT subtest in how it’s scored, the score statistics provided by UCAT are also different, and shown as the percentage of candidates in each band.

The UCAT website provides the following percentages for the Situational Judgement Test from 2016 – 2020:

2016 2017 2018 2019 2020*
Number of candidates 23,359 24,844 27,466 29,375 34,153
Band 1 26% 28% 21% 17% 30%
Band 2 44% 42% 34% 40% 36%
Band 3 22% 21% 32% 33% 24%
Band 4 9% 9% 13% 10% 9%

*Note, scores from 2020 are for tests taken up to 25 October 2020.

For more information about how the UCAT is scored, including the UCAT interpretation of performance per band, visit the UCAT Practice Test blog.

How important is the UCAT Situational Judgement Test?

The importance of the UCAT Situational Judgement Test in terms of your medical school application varies depending on your chosen university (see section below). However, being familiar with situational judgement style tests will benefit you throughout your training and future career, as they are used widely within medical selection, and therefore you will experience them at different stages of your professional life. The UCAT website highlights their use in the selection of ‘Foundation Doctors, GP and other specialities’, for example, demonstrating that Situational Judgement is not simply a test you will do once then forget about.

How do medical schools use the UCAT Situational Judgement Test score?

Often medical schools don’t list specific requirements, scores or bands, but will take your UCAT score and Situational Judgement band into consideration at some stage of the selection process.

For medical schools which give specific requirements for the Situational Judgement Test score, the most common criteria is that applicants must achieve band 1 – 3 and those who score in band 4 will not be considered for entry. The medical schools which specifically outline this requirement are:

  • University of Edinburgh Medical School
  • Hull York Medical School
  • Keele University School of Medicine
  • Lincoln Medical School (University of Nottingham Lincoln Pathway)
  • University of Manchester School of Medicine – they also specify that applicants in band 1 and 2 will be prioritised above band 3. 
  • University of Sunderland School of Medicine

How your score is used differs depending on your chosen medical school/s, so it’s worth checking their website to become familiar with any specific UCAT Situational Judgement Test requirements.  

As with all sections of the UCAT, you’ll be aware of your Situational Judgement Test score before you apply; therefore, if you didn’t perform as well as you’d hoped, you can always apply to medical schools which put less emphasis on this section of the UCAT. However, doing well will give you more options and mean you’re not restricted in the medical schools that you can apply for, which is especially important if the medical school/s of your choice have minimum requirements for the Situational Judgement test.

What is a good score for the UCAT Situational Judgement Test?

Generally, a score of band 1 or 2 is a ‘good’ score within the UCAT Situational Judgement Test. Although medical schools which specify entry requirements for the Situational Judgement Test include band 3 as an acceptable band, it’s possible that applicants in higher scoring bands will be prioritised over those in band 3, as stated by Manchester School of Medicine.

In addition, in previous UCATs over half of candidates have consistently scored in band 1 or 2, and in some years this has been as high as 70% of candidates; therefore, if you’re aiming for a ‘good’ Situational Judgement score it’s likely that you’ll want to score in this bracket.

Is band 2 in the UCAT Situational Judgement Test good?

The UCAT website outlines that candidates who achieve a band 2 ‘demonstrate a good, solid level of performance, showing appropriate judgement frequently, with many responses matching model answers’. Therefore, a band 2 or above is generally considered to be a good Situational Judgement score in the UCAT.

How to prepare for the UCAT Situational Judgement Test

The UCAT Situational Judgement Test assesses your ability to respond appropriately to given situations, as well as your values and behaviours linked to these actions. Therefore, gaining an understanding of the behaviours expected of doctors and medical students is a useful starting point for your exam preparations. The General Medical Council’s (GMC’s) Good Medical Practice guidance outlines the values and behaviours expected of a doctor, and therefore is a useful document to familiarise yourself with. Not only will it be helpful for your UCAT Situational Judgement Test but it’ll also be useful when it comes to your medical school interview, so the more familiar you are with it the better, in terms of your medical school application.

As with all areas of the UCAT, completing practice questions and practice tests will help you to prepare effectively for the Situational Judgement Test. This will help you to become familiar with the type of questions you’ll be asked, how to answer and the speed at which you need to answer them. Remember, the Situational Judgement Test is the last section in the UCAT, so you may find that you’re lacking concentration or becoming tired at this point. By incorporating full practice tests into your UCAT revision, rather than simply focusing on individual subtests, you’ll be more used to the demands of the test and build stamina to complete the full UCAT.

You can find more information about practice questions and tests, and where to access our free UCAT practice questions, in the example questions section below.

Tips to do well in the UCAT Situational Judgement Test

The following tips will support you to do well in the UCAT Situational Judgement Test:

  • Think about your role
    Your role or position is often an important element in the scenarios and will have an effect on how you respond. You should respond as the person in the scenario, not what you would do now, as you need to take into account their role, responsibilities and capabilities, which may be different to yours.

    For example, an appropriate response if you’re a medical student may be completely different to if you were a qualified doctor in the scenario, and both may be different to how you should respond in the same situation.

    This links to the guidance from the GMC’s Good Medical Practice which states that you must ‘work within the limits of your competence’; therefore, it’s important that you know what your limitations would be in different roles and ensure that you’re working within these in your responses.
  • Read scenarios carefully
    Although time is a consideration in all sections of the UCAT, the scenarios in the Situational Judgement Test are relevantly short, so ensure that you read each one carefully. This will support you to answer the questions more quickly, and by noting things like your role in the scenario (as discussed above), you’ll be able to evaluate the importance or appropriateness of the responses more effectively.
  • Remember partial points
    As with all sections of the UCAT, there is no negative marking, meaning you will not lose points for giving the incorrect answer. What’s more, with the UCAT Situational Judgement Test, you’ll be awarded marks if your answer is close to the correct response. Therefore, if you’re unsure of an answer – for example, torn between ‘very important’ and ‘important’ – you’re likely to at least pick up some marks if you give an answer rather than leave it blank, so it’s worth doing.
  • Approach questions separately
    For the ‘how important’ or ‘how appropriate’ type questions, you can use the same answer option for different responses to the scenario. For example, it may be that two options given are ‘a very appropriate thing to do’ in response to the situation. Therefore, consider and respond to each question separately, even those relating to the same scenario.
  • Remember what values and behaviours you want to demonstrate
    As mentioned previously, the UCAT website outlines the key values and behaviours that will be assessed – integrity, perspective taking, team involvement, resilience and adaptability – which your responses in the Situational Judgement Test should reflect. Consider other key attributes you’d expect doctors and medical students to demonstrate, for example, honesty, professionalism, confidentiality and compassion, and bear these in mind when considering your answer options.

UCAT Situational Judgement Test practice / example questions

As mentioned above, the two most valuable tools for preparing for the UCAT Situational Judgement Test are the General Medical Council’s Good Medical Practice guidance and practice tests. The first will help you to become familiar with the values and behaviours expected of doctors, while the second will prepare you for the questions that you’ll be asked and how you should respond; providing effective preparation for this section of the UCAT.

Our UCAT Practice Test blog provides free practice questions for all areas of the UCAT, including the Situational Judgement Test, as well as general information about the exam which you may find useful. We also have an adaptive UCAT question bank, which offers personalised learning, through artificial intelligence powered practice questions and practice tests, which adapt to your strengths and weaknesses. This ensures that you dedicate time to the areas which are likely to have the biggest impact on your UCAT score, making more effective use of your UCAT preparation time.

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This didn’t seem right to us. The personalised learning you get with a tutor has been shown to improve exam results across all fields of education. So why when it came to the UCAT, an exam that is vital for medical school, should it only be available to those who could afford a tutor?

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